Ten people were onboard a 21 foot Ski Nautique on Lake Gage in Steuben County Indiana about 7:15pm Saturday July 15, 2017. Dominique Effinger a 20 year old female was operating the boat. The boat took a hard turn and all ten people on board were ejected.
The unmanned boat went into the Circle of Death at an estimated 30 mph with ten people in the water.
A quote from the Journal Gazette perhaps best describes the chaos.
16 July 2016
“Several seriously injured people were taken to shore by local citizens’ boats so EMS and fire units could tend to the injuries, the statement said. It said two people were flown to Parkview Regional Medical Center in Fort Wayne with injuries including a skull fracture and a partial lower-arm amputation. Others less seriously hurt were taken to Cameron Memorial Community Hospital in Angola.
Conservation Officer Jake Carlile launched a Department of Natural Resources patrol boat as county sheriff’s deputies urged residents to move their boats and clear the area, the statement said. It said the unmanned 21-foot Ski Nautique motorboat was coming closer to boats and docks with each circle.
Carlile threw a rope from the patrol boat to entangle the motorboat’s propeller, the statement said. It said the boat then struck a dock and changed direction, striking the back of the patrol boat and disabling the patrol boat’s motor.
The rope slowed the motorboat, the statement said, and Carlile used a nearby personal watercraft to jump onto the runaway boat while both were in motion. He then brought the motorboat to a stop.”
Ski Nautique is a well known ski boat / two boat brand built by Correct Craft.
Alcohol is said to have been a factor in the accident. Dominique Effinger, the boat operator, was arrested for BWI (Boating While Intoxicated), causing injury, and for being a minor in possession of alcohol.
Indiana DNR officer Jake Carlile quoted above is the individual that leapt from a personal watercraft (PWC) / jetski into the unmanned vessel to finally bring it under control.
To date (17 July), none of the injuries have been specifically described in the media as propeller strikes, but with 10 people in the water, four reported as serious injuries, including one skull fracture, and one arm amputation we suspect one or more of these people were struck by the boat propeller.
Some bystanders captured portions of the event on video.
Videos of the earlier portion of the event show the boat circling not far from shore.
The later videos show the boat crashing into a boat dock and into the Indiana DNR vessel that appears to have had three people on board. They were extremely lucky one or more of those on the DNR vessel was not seriously injured or killed as seen in the videos below.
Below is a side view of when the boat struck the DNR boat posted by Yuxxy on YouTube.
As to how things could have quickly taken a turn for the worse. See the still images below captured from the video above.
These images were cropped and enhanced from the video.
At 15 seconds into the video the DNR boat is basically broadside to the boat dock and to the unmanned boat in a few seconds when in heads out into the lake. The boat will make one more loop, then head toward the DNR boat. The DNR boat operator is already turning the boat to put its stern toward the dock and none too soon. Had the DNR boat been struck broadside, the the Nautique might have just ran over it striking those onboard with the boat and the propeller OR those onboard could have been ejected and another Circle of Death accident could have ensued.
At 24 seconds into the video, just 9 seconds after the previous image, the Nautique strikes the dock, and the DNR boat is starting to flee the scene.
At 28 seconds into the video. In just four seconds the Nautique has overtaken the fleeing DNR boat and made contact.
At 29 seconds into the video, the rub rail on the Nautique appears to be striking or almost striking the man in the white shirt. Had he been knocked overboard at this time it could have been catastrophic.
The outboard motor on the DNR boat physically helped ward off the Nautique, but is so doing it was disabled, leaving the DRN vessel a setting duck as the Nautique continued to circle.
It appears the Nautique itself was partially disabled in striking the outboard motor and the DNR boat. It luckily slowed considerably after that collision.
We also captured a few images from a video posted by WFLA of Tampa Florida. Their video provides a view looking out at the lake from the dock area. The images below have been cropped from that video, brightened, sharpened.
This is another view of when the Nautique struck the DNR boat.
Just moments after impact with the DNR boat.
The Nautique slid down off the side of the DNR boat and is starting to circle again, but this time at a slower speed.
A much longer video of the boat in the Circle of Death was posted on YouTube by James Oxford.
Three still images were captured from the James Oxford video that likely contains the footage of one of the videos above. This version appears to be in better resolution than the other videos. These images were cropped, brightened, and sharpened from the Oxford video in the time in which the runaway boat struck the DNR boat.
The images are displayed in the sequence in which the events occurred.
Interestingly we have seen no mention in the media of if the kill switch lanyard was connected or not. One suspects it was not. It is an interesting end cap to the week the National Safe Boating Council rolled out their “Get Connected” campaign funded by the U.S. Coast Guard to increase wear rates of kill switch lanyards.
While trying to retrieve the WFLA video above, I noticed there was yet another kill switch Circle of Death accident in Florida. A couple in their forties were ejected when a small boat made a sudden turn Sunday July 16, 2017 at Courtney Campbell Causeway, the boat circled, and fatally struck the husband per TampaBay dot com.